Living with FOMO: A True Story

Many current dictionaries, especially those that also have online versions now include the word FOMO in their entries. Of course marked as slang, this neologism is in great use and generally understood by the youth at large to mean an ailment wherein the sufferer feels great remorse, regret, and overall anxiety when unable to participate in an event, opportunity, or moment where joy and gaiety would most certainly be in abundance. AKA Fear of Missing Out.

It’s no wonder this disease has surfaced in recent years. What with the ubiquity and downpour of social media all around us, how could one not feel like they were missing out on something? I know for me, on an average day I will see on Instagram at least one example of each of the following enviable things: Someone gallivanting handsomely through European countrysides. Someone participating in some sort of water sport that I will likely never be able to do, or have the fancy nautical friends to do it with. Someone eating food that I will not be able to afford in the foreseeable future. Someone enjoying some simple pleasure with the absolute love of their life in a way that a single person views as both beautiful, moving, and nauseating. Someone at a concert that I surely would have gone to had an invite been extended. Someone at a sporting event with seats that guarantee the view of premier athletes and celebrities and their pores and their favorite curse words audible. Someone at a swanky party. Someone clearly having fun and clearly making use of their phone, the same phone they will not text you back on. The list goes on and on depending on how many people you follow and how frequently you look at your devices, but needless to say there is a never-ending surfeit of reminders that people, people you know, are having more fun than you are. It’s exhausting. So what is the real issue here? Is it too much social media, too much online checking up on people? Or is it controlling our default human setting to be jealous of people doing things we aren’t? Maybe it’s none of that. Maybe the real insidious problem is not overactive scrolling habits or battling against boredom, maybe it’s in not enjoying the moments in our own lives because we are too concerned about what we might be missing. I’ve spent many nights hopping from one party to the next and I’ve found that the problem isn’t necessarily in hopping. After all, there might be a few gatherings across town that all sound fun and all contain people I know. The issue is that in doing this, each party turns out to be a rather miserable experience because I’m not enjoying my conversations, I’m visually scouring the premises for some great exciting center, for some saturnalian wonder to captivate and overtake me. And I’m also wondering what talented and well-connected beacons of human beauty I am missing at the next soiree. Again, it’s exhausting.

Even on vacation I have fallen prey to this devilish little feeling of FOMO. As with most things you do, there is downtime and moments that aren’t filled with pleasure bursting at the seams. So, I find myself thinking ‘Ya this Swiss hillside is breathtaking and all, but I know my buddy is in Norway playing on fjords and that might just make for a slightly better evening.’ It feels like a terrible sin to even admit that thought, but it’s true. It feels like there is something deep inside my tummy that wants me to never be happy. Maybe that’s my own issue, my own demon I need to overcome, but I know many people close to me struggle to be happy even when they are experiencing happiness.

I know what you are thinking. This is the part where I tell you the magical way to never have FOMO. I pat you on the back and tell you that that toxic way of thinking is a thing of the past. I wish it was that easy. If it was, I would probably teach wildly lucrative seminars (and hey maybe I will down the road when I perfect the matter) to those chronically incapable of having a good time. I think the real solution isn’t anything drastic or intense, I think it boils down to recognizing how unhealthy and counterproductive it is to worry about fun being had elsewhere. Sure, if you are bored and lazily scrolling through HULU looking for the perfect movie to watch, one you haven’t seen, and one that will make you forget your current set of adult problems while also allowing you to feel very real human emotions, while also not being one of those movies you can only watch by upgrading to HULU+, then maybe seeing that your friends are having fun at the beach is a good thing, because it will get you off your fanny and into the sun. But when your FOMO reaches a point where you are distracted, unpresent, even moody while you should be enjoying yourself and those you are with, you have a problem and should consider a new calculus for how you spend your time, the one thing in life that you will surely run out of. Perhaps it is a silly aspiration, but I want to be so deeply embedded in the fun I’m having that thoughts of other elsewhere fun has no ability to creep into my thought waves. Wouldn’t that be beautiful, to care so much about the present moment to forsake the notion that things might be better, greener you might say over the bend?

 

 

My Official Review of Tinder

Every few weeks while I am diligently swiping left and right on Tinder, perusing the women of the internet, the sweet dames of cyberspace, the app will suddenly disrupt my window-shopping with a pop-up that asks if I would like to rate the application. Bugged though I am, I recognize that it is a lovely little tool for meeting coeds, so I give it five stars. Then it asks if I would like to leave a review. Does anyone actually do this? I know I always feel like stopping my swiping and messaging to inflate the ego of a billion dollar company seems like a poor use of my time. But it has made me think. Each time I am asked I reflect, even if subconsciously, on my time on the app. Has it been worth it? Has it helped me? Has it hindered my progression towards love, has it made me view women as a never-ending rolodex of disposable possibilities? Honest and full answers of these questions are difficult and multi-layered, but I think it’s worth exploring.

Sometime in 2012 my roommate came home and asked if I had heard about Tinder. I was in the dark, but once he broke down the premise for me I was on board without further questioning. So I could meet attractive women just because they liked my pictures and I liked theirs? It seemed like such a beautiful and simple concept. At least now I would know the person I met was surely at least moderately attracted to me. I got to work immediately.

I still recall my very first “Tinder Date” (the ubiquitous use of this name I despise by the way, I mean do you say Met Organically at Coffee Shop Date, or In The Same Class Date, or even Hoping to Hook up Date?). She was cute and we hung out at her place, watched a dumb movie and made out on the carpet because the couch was small and I am not a short person. If my memory holds up, we never talked again. Now I know what you are thinking—no wonder this guy loves Tinder, he’s just like all the other sleaze weasels out there, just wants a piece. But relax for a second and hear me out. I have always dated a lot, and have always kissed a lot. This started in middle school and has nothing to do with online dating and everything to do with my own issues (of which do not concern the purview of this essay). With that being said, I did enjoy Tinder immensely and met women often. In my mind it was just another way to meet someone. I still met girls organically, it just added another medium. And though there were not a few paramours and ill-advised decisions way too close to dawn, I actually dated with a certain amount of seriousness a few girls that I met from the app. A few of them didn’t live especially close, but were otherwise so amazing that we even attempted long-distance (within the state) relationships. Though a couple burned out in horrible fashion, I counted myself lucky to have met these girls that without Tinder I would never have come across. It was like whatever force was behind destiny and kismet and cosmic matchmaking all of the sudden recruited an army of invisible warriors of love to help me meet the right person. I know that sounds tremendously dumb, but it’s more or less how I felt.

Let’s fast forward to 2017. I am still single. I still use Tinder and other dating apps. I am now done with college and am a debatably less appealing age, 30. So, all in all, has it been worth it? Often on the app girls will ask questions like, “What are you looking for on here?” or “Have you had much success on Tinder?”. It takes a lot of self-control at this point to not dive head-first into why I think those questions are asinine. So I usually respond with honest brevity, “Girls” or “Yes”. But given the space and time we have here (assuming you are still reading), I will tell you how I feel. When asked why I am on a dating app, I feel like telling that person that it depends greatly on what they want, on how attractive I really find them in person, and how well we connect. No girl wants to hear “I am looking for a super hot girl that I fall deeply and maddeningly in love with and that will one day bear me 3-5 children.” They also don’t want to hear, “Well we obviously have nothing in common and hold diametrically opposed views of the world, so maybe we should just briefly hookup, but in a fun and tender way that you will both enjoy and cherish as a memory and certainly not as a shameful and regrettable act that leads to further self-loathing and cynicism.” So you give them a stock answer: “I am just looking to get to know someone and see where it goes.” That seems to pacify most concerns. As far as the question of if I have had success on the app, again, I am not sure they really want the truth. Should I say, “Well I would think so, I have been out with hundreds of girls, had girlfriends, kissed countless (that’s just an expression, I actually have the exact number written down), and have overall just been crushing it for nearly half a decade.” That’s gross, no one wants to read that. Is the equally truthful alternative any better, “Well, no I haven’t had success because I am still single, and I still get dozens of stunning matches that won’t respond, and have been stood up multiple times and bailed on hundreds of times, and I say I don’t have commitment issues, but I probably do, and the use of an app based wholly on relative hotness likely exacerbates the condition, and the paradox of choice might be crippling my ability to settle (a word I disdain in dating contexts by the way) on one female, and on top of that, the myriad of fake accounts and unattractive sludge I have to wade through is taxing and at times disturbing.” No, in no way can you ever say something like that. So again, you revert to more generic rejoinders like, “Oh I suppose I have had a little success, but nothing amazing.”

I am tempted to get into long comparisons of competing apps like Bumble, Mutual, and OKCupid (my knowledge of Grindr being cursory at best), but to me it just depends on the demographic. Certain cities, age groups, and religions tend to lean towards different models of the same concept, which is to meet someone you think is hot who apparently also thinks you are hot/interesting as well. I currently favor Mutual over the other apps, but that has little to do with user experience, design, or algorithmic qualities. I prefer it because it seems to have more girls that I am interested in that match with me. It’s that simple. And if a better app comes out tomorrow and all the cuties in town jump ship, I’m sure I will be there.

We could argue over the pros and cons of online dating ad nauseam, but the point is (at least for me) that it’s another way to meet someone. It might encourage vanity, it might objectify the opposite sex, it might promote promiscuity, and it might retard emotional growth. But all of these maladies existed pre-internet and will continue on until the planet has melted or imploded or been wiped away by space matter. So we might as well focus on the good of it—it enables the uber-busy to date more. It avails persons to you that you otherwise never would have come in contact with, and it allows the timid and the dating neophytes to work on their patter at any time. It gives hope to people that have lost hope. Sadly, there is no elixir we can sip that will rid the world of crappy people, and there is no formula or recipe for avoiding heartache. Dating sucks and always will, it is and always has been what we make of it. May we make diamonds where there was nothing but tiny particles of carbon in the earth’s deep, swollen mantle.

 

 

What I Wish I Would Have Known But Would Have Had No Way of Knowing in My Twenties

Ten years ago today, as I entered my twenties I sat zit-faced and nearly comatose in a creaky hospital bed in Eastern Brazil undergoing tests and receiving thermometers in unholy crevices. I was no longer a teen, and was as a bonafide adult enduring what was later classified as an “augmented spleen.” A quick scare it was, but I was 20 now. I remember thinking what my twenties would undoubtedly contain. I would meet a girl, we would get married, and I would have a few kids. I would graduate from college, and I would become a high school teacher and basketball coach. The thirties seemed like a time where everything would be so wonderfully taken care of, a time of raising children, strutting through fancy boardwalks with my beautiful wife, and maybe figuring out what things like escrow and 401k meant.

I didn’t think life would be without trial or whirlwind, but I had no idea the amount of heartache and pain a decade could hold. With that being said, I also had no clue the amount of joy and love I could feel. The sheer polarity of life would make itself known in ways I never expected.

If I could go back and live my twenties again, what would I change? My deep-in-the-gut reaction is to say I would avoid certain relationships that ended in turmoil, or that I would steer clear of situations that left me broken both emotionally and financially. But with a soft step back I know this idea that going back to relive life stream-lining efficiency, and mitigating injury and sadness is pointless and even harmful. After all, who’s to say the gutters I walked through weren’t the very places where I stumbled upon diamonds in the murky waters? Who’s to say that the dark alleys where I found myself repeatedly facedown in the gravel-laced trash is not where I found the courage to forge on, the strength to beat the monsters in my memory? The point is hopefully obvious here. The journey, though difficult and at times unbearable is what makes us who we are, and there is no point in looking back with regret or disappointment.

In my twenties, I lost three friends to suicide. I lost my grandma. I lost my grandpa. I got my heart torn asunder. I broke hearts myself. I lost money. I lost friends. I cried and struggled like I never thought I would. But I also lived and learned more than I thought I would in a lifetime. I learned two new languages. I visited 18 countries. I wrote two books. I read hundreds and hundreds of books. I looked at the sky differently. I wept without reservation. I spoke with confidence.

And so if I could look back and tell the younger me a few things, I would remind myself of the following truths:

—Your heart will be broken many times in your life, and bits of it may never be fully healed or totally okay. But you will move on, you will be happy again.

—“That’s just the way I am” is an invalid excuse for bad behavior and poor life choices. We can change. We often don’t want to and think that stubbornness is our right, which it is, but it is also our right to be unhappy and disliked.

—Self-deprecation is toxic. You may not be the person you want to be yet, but there is no good in berating your current self.

—Look around you. You can miss the most beautiful moments in life because your face is glued to your phone, or because your thoughts are so consuming you can’t see the vibrant colors around you. How sad to live a life where sunsets, flowers, and the smile of a stranger doesn’t make you stop and appreciate life.

—Get smarter. You may not love to read or study, but if you want to get ahead, if you want to be better than your competition, open books, read articles, and taste of the magic that is out there. My favorite author, David Foster Wallace said, “If you spend enough time reading or writing, you find a voice, but you also find certain tastes. You find certain writers who when they write, it makes your own brain voice like a tuning fork, and you just resonate with them. And when that happens, reading those writers… becomes a source of unbelievable joy. It’s like eating candy for the soul. And I sometimes have a hard time understanding how people who don’t have that in their lives make it through the day.”

—Realize that though your life seems central in the plan of the universe, you are literally the only person in human history that sees it that way. Try to look through as many lenses as you can.

—Listen to people talk like they are going to pass away tomorrow. Even strangers.

—Let your heart feel things. Don’t put your feelings and dreams in a seatbelt. They can actually  handle extreme damage.

—Come to know that you can easily fail at many things, so you might as well do what you love, what fills you with the sort of power and brilliance that lights the sun.

—If you can, and this is hard, stop comparing yourself to others and remember that the race, in the end is only with yourself.

—Do new things as much as you can and disrupt your routine from time to time. Some of life’s greatest wonders and miraculous joys are found when we step out of the tiny path we usually safely walk on.

So, to be thirty, even though it sounds infinitely older than twenty-nine is not a bad thing. How could I look at the total of days I have lived as a bad thing? Why would I bemoan an entire epoch of my life just because it is over? Is my youth officially finished? Are my best days behind me? These questions don’t help anyone. I can only assume better and different days are ahead of me. I might hurt more, I might bleed more, and I might be slowed down by senescence, but growing up, growing older, moving forward never was and never will be anything short of a gift.

 

 

“Growing up is losing some illusions, in order to acquire others.” ~Virginia Woolf

New Book Release

I originally thought I would write my second book in about 6 months. I didn’t anticipate that any sort of life outside of the normal would transpire. But life does this every time. You have a timetable in your head, a plan, a vision, a schedule. And what happens? Along the way, in pursuit of what you want, you blow out a tire, you fall in love, you break your toe, you lose a friend. This is life, and we should never expect such a smooth uninterrupted life. But we do.

So, my book took just under two years to finish. You can blame a whole bevy of things, but I am the only real suspect. As a writer you sometimes think you cannot write in a certain state, be it sadness, distraction, ennui, or lethargy. You think that the words must come through a divine means, through some other-worldly revelation. But it is not so. They come when you sit down and write. Norman Mailer said, “Writer’s block is only a failure of the ego.” Normy was right. In fact, I have that quote inscribed with black ink on an ovoid piece of driftwood I found in northern California. But I also think the quote applies to more than just writing. The things we fail to do, the tasks we think we can’t accomplish usually have little real excuse attached to them. The failure is with us. Sometimes it’s with our ego and sometimes it’s with some other deep part of us. But it’s rarely so out of our control and grasp like we want to think it is.

My book is my new born child and I cannot wait to show it off like parents do with endless photographs and cute anecdotes. So though it is not as cute or cuddly or generally wonderful as an infant child, expect me to treat the new work as such.

Return Not Desired is available for purchase at Pioneer Book in Provo, UT, in various boxes in my room, and in paperback and e-book form on Amazon. Please go order it, and then let me know. I would love nothing more than to talk to you and sign your book. You can send me your copy and I will sign it. You can bring your copy to me and I will sign it. Or you can send me the money for a book and I will sign it and send it to wherever you are. Now remember most authors just sign their names. I can’t seem to sign a book without leaving some sort of personalized message, even if I don’t know you. I always loved yearbook week. It’s starting to make sense now.

Follow me on social media, and for goodness sake let me know what you think of my words.

 

Love, Tay

 

 

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Book Review: Gone with the Mind

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For the past few years I haven’t read a single book without reviewing that book on some internet platform, usually Goodreads. Sometimes it is just a few lines of approval. Most often it is a few paragraphs on how the book made me feel and the general relevance and gravitas of the words. And on the rare occasion a logorrhea of critiques and insults will ensue due to my disappointment or general chagrin.

I always appreciate good reviews on books I am interested in delving into, so I find it only fair and right to let the world know what I think about a book. Many books I cannot recall how I stumbled into their pages, but will forever be grateful for the stroke of serendipity. So if a descriptive sentence can steer a potential reader towards a tome that moves them at a time that they need to be so moved, then all will have been worthwhile.

I recently finished a book that was an absolute assault on the mind. It forced me to re-read lines, re-read whole pages, and look up words as if I was preparing a dissertation paper on a subject I knew nothing about. It was a book that was confusing and hard and annoying, but all the while it kept me curious and deeply interested. The book is called Gone with the Mind. The author’s name is Mark Leyner. I will explain more about the plot and theme of the book in a minute. First, how did I even come to know Mark Leyner exists? Honestly, I saw him on an interview with Charlie Rose, circa 1996. He seemed like a poorly dressed man who took himself way too seriously and wanted nothing more than for people to know how widely intelligent he was. Alas, he was there on the show being compared to one of my all-time favorite authors, David Foster Wallace. Both were labeled post-modernists. Both were known for their extremely large vocabularies. And both were known for writing difficult, hilarious, and wildly non-linear novels. So I thought, what the hell? I read up about Mr. Leyner and found the plot summaries of his books to be new and intriguing, and maybe even Wallace-esque. So, instead of reading his first book or his most famous opus I decided to read his recently released book with vague allusions to Gone with the Wind in the title.

I am not sure I followed this pseudo-autobiography as well as I would have liked to, but I know what I gathered and soaked up was lovely and viscerally enjoyable. The book has multiple narrators and basically is one intense and tangential monologue of a narcissistic paranoid author with mommy issues. But it isn’t some poorly veiled look into one man’s troubled and hyper-dramatized life, it’s a creative work of metafictionalized genius. Leyner meanders, jumps, and soars through the past, through his mind, and through the possibilities of life. If you allow the story, which is unusual and often frustratingly unclear, touch you you will find how much you can relate and how much life is wonderfully disconnected and boggled.

I’m sure many will find it uncouth or pedantic, but I found Gone with the Mind to be nothing short of a bizarre masterpiece.

If you care to know what else I have read or what I think about certain works, be sure to look me up on Goodreads.

And duh follow me on my instagrams- @taylorchurch44 and @taylorchurchbooks

These Weary Hands

David Foster Wallace once wrote,

“Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it.”

Though written in a work of fiction, knowing Wallace struggled with deep, paralyzing depression, and that he would go on to take his own life at age 46, these words hold a certain autobiographical sting to them.

As much as we think we understand suicide, who can know what one is truly going through before they “erase their own map,” a phrase Wallace repeatedly used to describe the self-elimination process. Who can understand the inner workings of a broken brain, a depleted and defeated soul, save it be one who has committed the act himself, and these are they who cannot speak out, for they are gone.

The above quote opens me up and makes me think about the things or people I’ve lost, things I’ve let go of, or things that have slipped out of my careless grip. Losing friends, losing my grandma, just barely missing the chance to fall in love, the near-misses of life—looking back, a lot of it hurts. It hurts to let go and it hurts to be let go, and still other times you don’t want to let go, but your hands are bleeding and can’t hold on for another second, even though thats all you want in the world in that moment. It’s like a poor mother that cannot feed her crying hungry children. It smashes her heart, but she just can’t do it. Sometimes we just can’t do it.

But what things have I left my claw marks on? I like to think I try my best and give it all with things I love, but when the colors start to fade and the screws come loose, and things start to fall apart and slip away, how fierce is my hold? How easily will I quit? Am I willing to scratch and claw to hold on, or is the pain, the wincing, the torn fingernails too much?

So I look at my hands. I know they’ve bled at times. I know they’ve been rough and smooth from both overuse and inaction.

And though I’ve never felt the cajoling demons of final and personal destruction, and the clouds above me have never been so black as to obscure all light and chance of hope, I’ve lost dear friends, martyrs to the darkness. And I know they left claw marks on life, but they just couldn’t hold on any longer, and that breaks my heart in new terrible ways. Some nights I can’t sleep thinking about them; not that their gone, but just that life hurt them so much.

So what can I do? I guess I can hold on a little longer and a little tighter. And when I can’t hold on to something, I damn well better leave lines of blood from my weary and broken fingers.

 

 

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Also, for the concerned and curious reader: My first book I’m Trying Here is available for purchase on Amazon and select bookstores. Signed copies can also be procured by contacting me any darn way you please. For my second book, Return Not Desired, see above avenues for attainment.

Saying Goodbye to An Old Friend

I don’t even remember meeting him. It seems we were just always friends, a sort of mystery of middle school boyhood. But our friendship was short-lived due to geography and the wavering vicissitudes of life.

He was a kid I looked up to immensely, so our friendship was forged and defined by that adulation I had for him, that endless charisma and that mysterious quality that makes someone truly likable. Marc had it.

We came from different worlds and didn’t spend much time outside of school together, besides a few parties and social events that seemed so important to thirteen year-olds.

But when he talked to me, he was there, but fully there, like an older brother. I still remember getting in trouble for “disruptiveness” in math class with him. But we didn’t care.

The school year ended and sadly I had no idea that I would never see my friend again. I knew we were headed to different high schools, but I didn’t know that that August my family would decide to move from Phoenix to a rural town in Central Utah.

I remember coming home from my 8th grade graduation with a strange pall of melancholy. I didn’t know for what reasons, but I knew life would never be quite the same and it saddened me.

Months later I was in Utah flipping through my yearbook reading the words of my old friends, friends I knew I might not see again. Most of the entries were as unimaginative and impersonal as they come, wishing me a fun summer and congratulating me on another school year gone by. But Marc’s words at the bottom of that glossy  “autograph page” were different.

 

“T.C.,

Hey we’ve been through a lot. I don’t really know how to say bye. But next year show them Cortez monkeys how to bling-bling alright. I’ll never forget how funny you are. O.K. that’s enough sentimental shit. Hey keep it real and have a kick-ass summer.

M.D. Rappa’Lot (AKA Marc Dixon)

 

Fifteen years later Marc and I had talked very little, but we liked each other’s Facebook posts, exchanged numbers, and sent a few texts back and forth.

A couple years ago I noticed Marc had been diagnosed with cancer. It broke my heart, as I’m sure it did to countless others. I reached out to him, and never heard back. I figured he was sick and busy, and kept him in my prayers. His occasional posts were inspirational and made me want to fight harder for things in my own life, things I took for granted.

Then one unsuspecting Wednesday I got a Facebook message from a fellow classmate of Cholla Middle School, another person I hadn’t seen for nearly fifteen years. Georgia said,

 

“How are you doing? Been a while!”

“Hey I am doing great, thanks for asking. I know right? How are you?”

“Lost one of my closest friends, Marc Dixon. Been a rough year. He died hard and fast. But so painfully slow at the end. You knew him too I’m sure.”

 

I was taken aback being that I hadn’t heard anything about his passing. I knew he didn’t look great and his death was something that wasn’t far-fetched. But the moment I heard it, or rather read the news, my heart felt torn-up and deflated. Now I would most certainly never see him again.

Although death is inevitable and unspeakably terrible, it is part of life. To love is to lose. But I knew that I would see Marc in the next life. And I knew we would hug and weep for the lost time and smile at the eternities ahead of us.

Hundreds, probably thousands of people knew Marc better and loved him more than I could. But I’m thankful for him. I’m sad at the great loss, but I am a better man for having known him, and for having witnessed his fight.

“Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it.”

~David Foster Wallace

marc
8th grade graduation. The last time I ever saw Marc.

 

 

 

Keep Going Eastward

We left early, but early for us just meant sometime before lunch. We stopped at 711 to get snacks and fuel. The teller had a curious tattoo with the words “love and hope” or something similarly and vaguely inspirational. I asked her what it said as I paid for my watermelon juice and generic blueberry sour candy. She quickly and without reservation pulled her shirt over and down to reveal the whole art piece and a significant amount of clavicle. “It’s itchy” she said.

We drove fifteen or twenty minutes until we saw a large formation of rocks in the shape of a heart on the side of East 6 Highway. We crossed the 4-lane highway to get a closer look. Brady, Drew, and Mandi walked ahead of me. Brady noticed down a dry ravine a little sign in rusted metal that had a few lines and a funny silhouette of some cowboy boots. It read, ‘Learn This Well…The last ride is never the last ride, and the end is not the end.” At the bottom it said “In memory of Heather and Brad.” As odd and unexpected as this 3-foot epitaph was, it moved me, made me smile, and made me miss my Grandma.

We climbed back up to the road and jogged towards the heart. The heart was placed against a hill, and made visible by brightly painted stones, three crosses at the heart’s apex, and red dirt in the center. We just stopped for a minute and appreciated it. Then someone noticed one of the rocks had slipped a few yards down, lying by our feet. It was orange and heavy. I decided it needed to go back. I climbed up towards the top of the heart in my Birkenstocks, removed part of a tumbleweed and reunited the rock with its vibrant neighbors. We hustled back to the car while Mandi lagged behind muttering something about a dead rabbit she saw.

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With dirty shoes we got back in the car and headed East not knowing for certain what we would see or what we even wanted to see.

Our next stop was in Fairview to procure some sort of local lunch. But first we wanted to survey the town, so we drove down the main street and followed a sign pointing towards a museum of art and history.

We spilled out of the car, stretching and grunting before meandering around the outside of the museum where rusty old pioneer artifacts sat dying and forgotten. A few of the doors were boarded up and we saw old boxes with artificial snow sitting around scattered trash. Assuming the museum was closed or abandoned we looped around back to the car, only to find that the main entrance was open, summoning us in.

A short woman in her seventies greeted us with the enthusiasm of a young golden retriever. She had on high-watered white pants and a shirt with the phrase “Ladies night, 2014” written across the chest. Her name was Terry and it was obvious that she lived for this. It was clear that city youths didn’t enter often, and we soon received the top-shelf tour. Terry’s excitement for an otherwise dusty and kitsch display was invigorating and contagious. She encouraged us to ring a bell upstairs, prefacing the instruction with “I shouldn’t tell you this, but…”

She tarried (pun intended) behind us to the adjoining building reserved for trinkets and a small dino-skeletal display. We wandered around discussing lunch. Terry could be heard bragging to her co-workers of equal age and even less flattering clothing choices how four college students came in and “saw everything!” Her moody retired-in-Florida-type colleagues kind of nodded as if to say “Here goes Terry again telling one of her wild tales.”

I gave T a hug and told her how grateful we were. We exchanged phone numbers and promised to keep in touch.

We lunched at TeeCee’s, a small burger shop that used to also accommodate video rental services. The refills were not free, but we enjoyed the small town burgers before heading out again to the great road.

In search of ghost towns, land art and adventure we stopped in a tiny town with a reservoir and a lot of green roofs. We followed our Google Maps toward the dirt road that would take us to an old mining town, since abandoned. But a half mile later we met with large gates and No Trespassing signs. Knowing the nature of isolated farmers, that were within eyeshot, we decided not to risk the trespassing citation.

Chagrined by our luck, we jumped back into the car. My eyes got heavy and my body felt spent from a night of little sleep. So I rested my head into my left hand in a way that eliminates a little bit of tiredness, but eventually leaves your hand numb and your wrist sore.

Thirty or forty minutes later we arrived in another small town in a different county. Here, we explored for hours, eventually finding the road that led to a very accessible ghost town called Spring Canyon, an old coal mining town. Only a few buildings remained, ravaged by decades of neglect and local vandalism. They were barely buildings. But one still held metal containers, large, elevated, vat-like containers full of coal that had no doubt been there since before my Father was born.

We took pictures inside by the profane graffiti and mechanical structures. We ventured around outside on porous escarpments, taking in vistas and hurling rocks downward into other bigger rocks. Mandi kept saying, “These aren’t the richest rocks I’ve ever seen, but they sure are the porous.” Puns followed us the rest of the day.

The sun was starting to droop, so we left in order to see our main destination that was still a good sixty miles away. In the perfect time of twilight we arrived in Green River, Utah. We parked in a dirt lot, crossed the tracks and beheld the great work of art on the desert floor.

It was a massive pyramid-like structure built by a visionary artist in 1973. It was called Ratio. A couple hundred feet away was the accompanying piece called Elements. The land art wasn’t exactly breath-taking or life-changing. But it was beautiful, and someone made it. And sitting there in the cool wind as the sun merged with the horizon, you could feel a certain divinity in it all.

The sun fell and we needed victuals. We decided on Tamarisk, a restaurant that sat on the banks of the Green River. We didn’t look into its prices or menu, it looked romantic enough for us.

We ate soggy fries and delicious entrees, tipped well, then left the eatery near closing time. Walking to the car we noticed the motel next door had a pool and hot tub with an unlocked gate. No one had a change of clothes but we contemplated swimming any way. We settled on sitting with our feet in the hot tub, listening to folk music and rehashing the greatness that was the day.

We all were quiet for a while, so satisfied with our day that little else could be said. It was like when an athlete has an amazing performance, and instead of celebrating wildly, calmly walks off the field with a smile and a full heart.

 

ratio 1

ratio 2

 

 

 

If you find that you like my words and want to read an entire book by me, contact me for a copy of I’m Trying Here or be patient for the summer release of my next book, Return Not Desired.

Contact me in one of the following forms:

taylorchurchbooks@gmail.com

Instagram- @taylorchurch44, or @taylorchurchbooks

 

Little scraps of wisdom

My poor Father’s birthday falls on the day before your taxes are due. This is like having your birthday as a child be the day before your huge science project is due each year in school. It’s not catastrophic, but it’s a bit annoying. What isn’t annoying is having a Dad you think of as more of a friend than anything else, a friend that brought you into the world, and essentially taught you everything you know.

Italian novelist Umberto Eco said, “I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”

Mr. Eco has managed to describe a small portion of the role my Father has played in my life much better than I ever could. Here are just a few examples of those odd moments and scraps of wisdom.

I remember in the heat of Phoenix summers my Dad narrating as he drove. He knew that my sister would soon be 16, and I would follow a few years after. He would explain why he was yielding, or why other drivers were so unfit for traffic. He would use his horn in an almost graceful and pedagogical way.

Even to this day my Dad will pause a movie or TV show we are watching to explain a certain actor’s pedigree, or a certain director’s lack of creativity. Growing up this never felt like a lecture on cinematography, or an annoying adult projecting on those less educated. It was sharing. It was knowledge. It was togetherness for us.

I remember hugging my Dad after my final high school basketball game. I was crying cause we lost, and cause I knew it was over forever and unlikely that I would play at the next level like I had dreamed about for so long. He knew no words could really console me at that moment. But his eyes told me that he got it, and that he loved me. And his timely silence meant everything to me, cause it was proud silence.

One high school afternoon my Dad came home from work and called me out to meet him in the driveway like something was the matter. I ran out, and he just said “Hurry, come listen.” There was a Pink Floyd song on Serius Radio that he didn’t want me to miss. Probably without outwardly trying to, my Dad taught me about passion, taught me how to love lots of things and find beauty in art and the small things around me.

Ultimately, along with my Mom my Dad taught me something so simple but so missed by so many people. In her memoir, Patti Smith preaches the same wisdom,  “To be an artist was to see what others could not.”

Love you Pap.

 

 

pappy

A Break from Prose

I think a lot of people have at some point in their life written poetry. Maybe they were short rhyming couplets they composed for an English class, or perhaps they jotted down some haiku one night camping after everyone had fallen asleep and the embers crackled in the dark. Some people have secret notebooks with scattered thoughts they have compiled over the years with little order or apparent beauty. Expressing ourselves with words is such a powerful thing, but sometimes it only comes in a burst. This, for me at least, is often when poetry is birthed. I’ve rarely shared my poetry with anyone; not because I’m ashamed or embarrassed of my work, but mostly because they are often deeply personal, and I don’t really think of myself as a poet, though I’ve written many and rather love writing them. So maybe it is time to share a few.

 

Be it forever?

Even on the blue shores of Alaska

I think of her

Alone in the cold, with wild memories near

Her heart moves on in the wilderness

Mine stays put in the city

Beneath the golden sky and under the endless night

We stare at the same sun

We hope on the same moon

A vast lake separates us

Be it forever?

Grandpa Howdy

The tears are fleeting, the fathers speaking

In remembrance we sit, fighting feelings

Our eyes swollen, our hearts too sad

Saying bye to a grandpa, a friend, a dad.

Untitled

The moon seemed eternally shy and devastatingly bright

As it peaked its forehead over the mountain peaks just to my right

It was a sight that stuck with me

A beauty indelible and awesome

Reminding me of the scared yet indestructible light within ourselves

break from prose